Until recently, the government has been looking to discourage the planting of new & permanent exotic forests such as pine trees, by excluding them from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
Iwi who rely on this industry have threatened legal action and a Waitangi Tribunal claim in the past over this proposal. However, it appears a series of recent hui may have turned the tide in their favour.
Māori Forestry Association Spokesperson Chris Karamea Insley (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou) says an opportunity for long-term development of “marginal land that is not good for anything else” is at stake.
“In aggregate, with the government stepping back from its original programme, this amounts to a programme going forward of up to $7 billion of development for our people. So it’s a big deal.”
“If it was a toss-up between a native tree and a pine tree, inevitably most of our Māori people would go with the indigenous tree. But it is about those marginal lands and the opportunity to build serious regional development for our people.”
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After many hui, an agreement has been made with government ministers and iwi to allow the fast-growing trees early on and to have the indigenous plants take over in time.
“Through time, as you start to open up the planting through thinning, you let light in there and it encourages the indigenous trees to come away. Then in the next 50-100 years, the indigenous crop takes over. It’s a win-win.”
Insley is convinced that there is a way for iwi to come together with government ministers, including Climate Minister James Shaw, Forestry Minister Stuart Nash and Māori Labour MPs on this issue.
“It was important to us to look across the table and see our Māori ministers there talking back to us. It was tough discussion but we got to a point where we’re clear that there is a way forward.
“Our people are ready to start planting now.”